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Most interventions in low and middle income countries focus on either child development or maternal health despite the fact that the two are so...
Early childhood stunting is associated with lower developmental levels in the subsequent generation of children.
Steering committee member Susan Walker along with a group of researchers, conducted a case control study of children in Jamaica with uncomplicated...

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  • Foundations for health and well-being are established early in life, however, evaluation of progress in young child development and effectiveness of strategies to promote development is impeded by the lack of population-based indicators for children under aged 3 years.  With the support of the Bernard van Leer foundation the Global Child Development Group (GCDG) held a meeting in April 2014 to bring together researchers and technical experts to agree on a process to identify indicators that could be used within and across populations. The meeting was attended by investigators with existing cohorts from low and middle income countries with developmental data prior to age 3 years as well as follow-up outcome data.  The members agreed to pool their data and on a process to derive global population based indicators for child development using innovative data analysis techniques. The team has now obtained funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct this project with the first phase of analyses to be completed by early 2017.  We will apply quantitative methods to inform the development of a scale and indicators of early child development. These analyse build on a process of establishing “growth charts” of early child development, developed by project co-investigator Professor Stef van Buuren. Through a two-stage estimation procedure, based on the Rasch model and the calculation of change scores, van Buuren has shown that data from standardized measures of early child development in the Netherlands form a continuous latent variable (D-score) that has interval scale properties. In this project we will replicate the estimation procedure across 13 cohorts from 10 countries (Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, China, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Madagascar, South Africa) to identify items to include in the D-score, such that the scale’s measurement properties are maintained across the cohorts.  Following this we will examine the ability of the score to predict later outcome and document a process to construct age-conditional reference charts. Our goal is to create and evaluate a trajectory of D-scores that can be used on a global scale to calculate differences within and across ages and countries, much as height-for-age growth charts are used to indicate rates of stunting.  
  • A recent study published in The Lancet Global Health, highlights the importance of nutrition and responsive stimulation for children's cognitive, language and motor development. The study was led by Dr. Aisha K. Yousafzaiof Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. The study followed a cohort of impoverished children in rural Pakistan whose parents had been guided and trained on strengthening nutritional care and 'responsive stimulation'. The caregivers of the infants were trained to observe and respond to their child's cues during play and were encouraged to communicate with the aim of improving the quality of interactions.  The study found that by the age of 4, children who received the responsive stimulation intervention were more likely to have, higher IQs, better pre-academic skills, better executive functioning and more pro-social behaviours.  The inclusion of stimulation intervention in health programmes is key to health development of children. As Dr. Aisha K. Yousafzaiof highlights, "The abilities fostered by stimulation are important for readiness and a successful transition to preschool. The competencies asses in this study have been shown to predict school engagement and longer-term academic attainment."
  • Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada, and the "Saving Brains" partners today announced investments in nine creative ways to protect and nurture the cognitive development of children in developing countries. The investments total up to CDN $4.2 million, shared between projects in Africa (Cameroon, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Uganda), Central and South America (Brazil, Guatemala, Peru) and Asia (Pakistan). The Saving Brains program supports new approaches to ensure children thrive by protecting and nurturing early brain development, providing a long-term exit strategy from poverty. To date, over 20,000 children have accessed Saving Brains innovations designed to improve early child development. Given the early stage of the innovations, the full impact will occur in the coming years as the most promising of these innovations transition to scale.
  • A new study released in the journal Current Biology, has found that the attention span of a child can be expanded when the parent and child experience joint-attention moments during play. The researchers Chen Yu and LB Smith, were surprised to discover that parents who were more active and engaged during play with their 1 year-old child, were able to have a real-time impact on the child's attention span. The study is novel as attention-span has always been viewed as an innate feature of an individual, something individualistic that you are born with. However, the results of the study suggest that it is possible to train children as young as one year old to increase their attention span. To read the full article and to find out how you can take help to improve your child's cognitive development please click the link below. 

New Publications

  • Research shows that imagination and unstructured playtime are important to a child’s intellectual development. The California-based Child Development Institute reports that the best toys inspire imagination and adds that all toys have some educational benefits. For ideas and suggestions on how you as parents can promote learning and development through play with your child, read the full article by clicking on the link below. 
  • Approximately half of the children in India are stunted. Stunting within this population is due to three primary issues; lack of education about nutrition, financial constraints of the child's mother or mothers being stunted and undernourished themselves. The highest risk factor of stunting in children is maternal height.  A study conducted by the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in Boston, used data of nearly 29,000 children aged 6 - 59 months from the Third India National Family Health Survey 2005-2006. The study found that the problem of stunting continues to remain at the Regional level and can be linked to 5 main risk factors. The top five risk factors for stunting within this population are maternal height, BMI and dietary diversity, education and household wealth. Based on these findings is has been suggested that the key to addressing this problem is to ensure 'food security' and 'livelihood security'.  The Harvard study concludes that investment and focus of nutrition programmes should be on improvement of social circumstances and also to promote dietary adequacy and diversity.
  • There is a new health Paradigm emerging and Dr. Jose Miguel De Angulo and Luz Stella Losada  along side MAP international are leading the charge in Bolivia.  The brain architecture of a person develops in the first 2 to 3 years of life. This architecture determines the capacity of the organism to self-regulate its biological, emotional, cognitive and interactional processes with the environment. Essentially the more robust the architecture of the brain the more potential and capability the individual has.  With this new understanding experts are shifting their focus to early infancy and to parental health as the best strategy to invest resources to foster development of health and sustainable societies.  In an article published on Saporta Report's Global Heath section, Dr. Jose Miguel De Angulo explains the theory behind this new paradigm and how WAP International has been using it to guide interventions in Bolivia and Ecuador.  Please click the link below to read the full article.
  • Steering committee members Sally M. Grantham-McGregor, Lia C. H. Fernald and Susan Walker along with their colleague Rose M. C. Kagawa, conducted a systematic review of studies that examined the effect of interventions combining a child development component with a nutrition one; in some cases the nutrition interventions also included health-promotion components.  Below is the abstract of the article.   'The study only included papers that had both child development and nutrition outcomes and rated as moderate-to-good quality. Eleven efficacy and two nonrandomized trials, and eight program evaluations were identified. The trials showed nutritional interventions usually benefited nutritional status and sometimes benefited child development. Stimulation consistently benefited child development. There was no significant loss of any effect when interventions were combined, but there was little evidence of synergistic interaction between nutrition and stimulation on child development. Only three trials followed up the children after intervention. All at-scale program evaluations were combined interventions. Five benefited child development, but one did not, and two showed deficits. There was generally little benefit of at-scale programs to nutritional status. The study found no rigorous evaluations of adding stimulation to health and nutrition services at scale and there is an urgent need for them. There is also a need to establish quality-control mechanisms for existing scaled-up programs and to determine their long-term effects. There is also a need to determine if there are any sustained benefits for the children after programs finish.'  

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